April 8th, 2009
05:00 PM ET
10 years ago

Schneider: Why the public opinion shift on gun control?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/08/art.getty.gun.jpg caption="Has public opinion shifted on gun control?"](CNN) - Has public opinion shifted on gun control?

Yes. And in a very surprising way.

Binghamton . . . Pittsburgh . . . Oakland . . . Samson, Alabama . . . Carthage, North Carolina . . . sensational incidents of gun violence all over the country.

Are we seeing an impact on public opinion?

Since 2001, a majority of Americans has favored stricter gun laws. Though support has been trending slightly down. Eight years ago, 54 percent of Americans wanted stricter gun laws compared to 50 percent in 2007, according to a Gallup poll.

And now? A sharp, sudden drop. Only 39 percent of Americans now favor stricter gun laws.

It may have to do with the President Obama and the new administration.

"If he and the people in control of Congress right now could have what they want, they would heavily restrict or eliminate guns from this country," said Sean Healy, an attorney who has advocated on behalf of gun rights. At the moment, the country is seeing a surge in gun sales.

Or Americans may have heard what the new attorney general said. "There are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstate the ban on the sale of assault weapons," said Attorney General Eric Holder in February.

They may have also heard what the new secretary of state said about the ban.

"I, as a senator, supported measures to try and reinstate it. Politically, that is a very big hurdle in our congress. But there may be some approaches that could be acceptable and we are exploring those," Clinton said in March.

Support for tougher gun laws has held fairly steady among Democrats, but the sharp drop has been among Independents and Republicans, where there are fewer Obama supporters.

Among Republicans, only 33 percent support stricter gun laws now compared to 50 percent in 2007, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey. Among independents, support has dropped from 34 percent to 21 percent.

The Gallup poll reveals a gradual, long-term decline in support for gun control from the early 1990s to 2008. That coincides with a decline in the murder rate. But this year's sudden drop seems to be influenced by politics.

Filed under: Polls
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. Krispi

    Obama really was right......people who cannot cling to rationality will cling to guns.

    April 8, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  2. J.P.

    Gun control... making life safer for criminals, burglars, rapists and belligerant, overreaching governments everywhere.

    "The constitutions of most of our States assert that all power is inherent in the people; that... it is their right and DUTY to be at all times armed."
    –Thomas Jefferson, 1824

    "Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man."
    –Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria in On Crimes and Punishment (1764)

    April 8, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  3. John

    I am all for responsible gun ownership; I wish the NRA felt the same way.

    There simply must be a unilateral BAN on assault rifles, automatic weapons, semiautomatic weapons–call them what you will. It should be a felony to possess these instruments of death.

    We are seeing the bitter fruit of our practically non-existent gun laws: Mexican drug cartels, shootings all over this great country... so sad, so sick. This is not what our forefathers envisioned.

    Background checks must be MUCH more rigorous.

    Also: we must heavily TAX all gun purchases!!!

    April 8, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  4. Tom

    How about instead of stricter gun laws, they actually ENFORCE the ones in place now?
    Maybe if we got the guns out of the hands of criminals, both US nationals and illegals (which should all be returned to port of origin and all assests siezed/sold to pay down the national debt) there would be a LOT LESS crime in America (both the US & Canada).

    April 8, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  5. Mari

    Well, we here at our house have never been polled about guns. Nor have millions who own only cell phones!

    Personally, I think we are nuts to have guns so freely available for nuts to get a hold off and kill at will!

    Since Obama came into office, the gun lobby has been perpetrating a rumor about "new restrictions" which I doubt will happen.

    But the conservatives love a good rumor! Those people live in fear that their guns will be taken from them! Idiots.

    April 8, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  6. john

    The only way to protect yourself is to own a gun, the police cannot protect you either can our government so you arm your selves.

    April 8, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  7. Terry

    I don't think most people should be allowed to drive a car, much less own a gun. I have never been threatened by a criminal with a weapon, but I have almost been killed three times by sportsmen who are shooting at butterflies, cacti, and clouds in the southwestern desert where my wife and I like to hike.

    My mother, who has now passed on to a well deserved reward, used to live on the old family home place that had been in our family for four generations, way out in the boondocks. She quit locking her gates because hunters shot the locks off. She quit putting no hunting signs on her fences because hunters shot them to pieces. After they shot her gates open, they would be just as likely to shoot one of her cows as a deer. On their way out, they would usually seine out her fish pond.

    To summarize, it's not the criminals who scare me, its the gal ahead of me in line in Walmart who has a .257 magnum in her purse.

    April 8, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  8. Renee

    Maybe people are realizing that by making things illegal, it increases crime and violence by creating a black market for such items. We saw this with prohibition, drugs, abortions, etc.

    April 8, 2009 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  9. Diane Panama City Fl

    May be a few more mass murders and suicides by the gutless gunrights freaks who commit them might increase support for stricter gun control laws – especially if it's their loved ones who get blasted to kingdom-come by some jerk with no coping skills who happens to be able to pass a background check and lay their hands on a semi-automatic assault weapon. How many more deaths is it going to take: 10, 20 100 1000 -???

    April 8, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  10. SouthernMan

    Apparently many "gun toting" Americans don't know the difference between gun control and banning all guns. We previously had a ban on the sale of assault weapons, and to my knowledge we managed to get through that period without a drastic rise in crime. I can't recall hearing of a citizen defending family or property with an assault weapon. Hunters don't use assault weapons, so what's the big deal. Oh, I forgot, they are neat toys and make lots of noise.
    For the people who need to have an assault weapon I suggest the military, where you can get paid to carry and use an assault weapon. If you're really lucky you might even get a chance to draw down on a real live, breathing human being who has one also – just to make things interesting.

    April 8, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  11. Joseph, Los Angeles California

    This country needs sticker gun controls again. Too many innocent people are being killed lately... and what for? To blame it on the economy, as I heard this morning in the media, is a coopout. Why do people need AK47's if not to kill their fellow man?

    April 8, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  12. Baze

    Civilians shouldn't be able to own assault weapons, period.... If you've got the heart to handle this type of hardware, then be a man and join the Army instead of shooting machine guns in the corn fields like a coward.

    April 8, 2009 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  13. Drew

    The law to bare arms is in great need of revision. I simply do not understand why we allow people to carry weapons that are meant to kill other people. There is just no reason anyone should ever have a semi-automatic or assult weapon for recreational use, really, what is the point?!

    I have heard the line, guns don't kill people, people kill people.. But I am sure that a lot less people would be getting killed if the restrictions on gun ownership were limited to hunting purposes only, and even the hunting laws should be revisited to restrict against these excessive types of guns.

    What happened to the good ol days where you took your grandpa's shotgun into the woods, and came back with a phesant for dinner?

    April 8, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  14. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Finally, change we can believe in.

    April 8, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  15. floridian

    "The Gallup poll reveals a gradual, long-term decline in support for gun control from the early 1990s to 2008. That coincides with a decline in the murder rate. But this year's sudden drop seems to be influenced by politics."

    Did Gallup ask those polled why they favor less gun control? Or is CNN just taking a shot in the dark (pun intended) that it is political? I think that many Americans are fearful for their perceived potential loss of freedoms and would rather preserve their right to bear arms, as our founding fathers desired, in order to protect those freedoms.

    How many of those polled were from the Southwestern states where the opportunity to bear arms might become life saving?

    April 8, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
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